Swirling, long black feathers whipped by the wind.
‘What is it? I asked.
A widow bird. The image remains.
A dance of grief in the air, round and round to quite still, high above the earth. Performing a dance of grief. Movement of pain. Rolling, crouching, arching, twisting. I know that sting of grief, like a cloying, soaked cape you cannot wrench aside. Or dries and peels. A black sheath around your heart. Few escape the strangling grip of grief. Some get more than their share.
South Africa burned last week. Hopeless desperation and opportunity erupted into looting, destruction of property amid a frenzy of hatred and entitlement. Told to stockpile, stay at home … oh God, again, and again, for how long again …and wait for a coup.
Unkindness on those streets. Every good person suffered. Everyone lost a little of their souls.
So I stayed home.
I became a widow to the country I live in.
I have been here before. No stranger to violence, I shift away, step away a little, time steps between and I forget a little. Africa is Africa I tell myself, take the rugged, brittle beauty of belonging and try not to fathom the rugged cruelty of poverty, hopelessness and fear. My children have left her shores, living, not a dream, not without deep loss, but thankful they are not here.
I am a widow to the closeness of family, together in the country of their birth.
Followed I have, returned I have … there is something about the pull of homeland that lies so deep within my breast, not the platitudes I read, or the quirky stories told, but it is this bloodied soil that I have stepped from, that holds me forever in spirit. The bloodied soil I gave up, yearn for and cannot hold onto.
The butcher bird impales its victims on thorns, twigs and barbed wire. I don’t like butcher birds, cruel little buggers. I cannot abide cruelty. Saw that so close.
And I think of that Widow bird, swirling over my beloved country. I know the bird was doing what came naturally to it, but right now, I don’t really know what natural or real is at the moment, and when I saw this picture, taken many years ago, I was drawn – the widow bird. I am a widow right now, to a country that raised me, and sort of died last week.
It only takes a few to murder so many dreams.